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Italy: PON scholarships extended to four regions

The Italian Ministry of Education has extended a European-backed group scholarship scheme funding study abroad to secondary school students learning European languages after industry speculation that the programme would be scrapped.

Calabria, Italy. Photo: piervincenzocanale.

Industry sources speculate that there could be up to €20 million in funding available

“There seems to be a general level of excitement that this ‘turn’ will be much improved on the 2012/13 offering”

Funded by the European Strategic Fund, scholarships of €2,500 and €3,375 will be available to students in their third, fourth and fifth years of secondary school in the regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia.

It is not yet known how many scholarships will be available as the Italian government is still in the process of authorising schools for the scheme, but industry sources speculate that there could be up to €20 million in funding available.

In the past, the programme has funded several thousand students to study in the UK, leading educators to be concerned that the funding could be cut. David O’Grady, CEO of Marketing English in Ireland, however, was positive about this year’s offering, saying that he has seen “huge interest” in the scheme.

Lisa James, Head of International Business Development at Education Travel Group, said that Kingswood centres have received “quite a few enquiries” already.

“There seems to be a general level of excitement among the Italian agents that this ‘turn’ will be much improved on the 2012/13 offering, which was slightly disorganised and saw many schools trying to organise their own stays directly,” she told The PIE News.

Under the scheme, students will travel in groups of between eight and 15, and schools can apply to send a maximum of three groups abroad. Accompanying teachers also benefit from funding.

The groups will complete a three- or four-week language course in another European country and must sit an external exam upon completion.

Students must complete their study abroad placement between April 1 and November 15 of this year, with large cohorts expected around Easter and between September and October.

This narrow window could cause difficulties for some providers as the eight-month period draws nearer, Fabiana Aniello, PON Manager at Euro Master Studios, told The PIE News.

“Italian red tape is very complicated, so schools receive money very late,” she said. “The organisation’s very complex: because you have to think of the schools, the accommodation, the flights, and insurance. It’s very difficult to live with.”

Henry Tolley, Head of Business Development, UK & Eire at Trinity College London, added that some schools may face difficulties accommodating students due to Easter closures and some summer school providers only having premises available during the summer months.

“In past years, the PON schemes have happened at the last minute, which has created a big mess”

“In past years, the PON schemes have happened at the last minute, which has created a big mess,” he told The PIE News.

However, he added that he does not expect this year’s last-minute announcement to jeopardise the study abroad opportunity for any students who are allocated scholarships.

Though some schools do coordinate directly with partner institutions in other European countries, most groups are placed through agents. Lorenzo Agati, President of Italian agency association IALCA, said that he expects education agencies to play a key role in this year’s placements.

“We think our effort will be necessary to provide a first quality service and this will be beneficial for the industry as well as the students involved,” he said.

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